We’re number one! We’re number one!
Oh wait. That’s not the “happiness index” (31st, down from 16th in 2012), or the “best places to do business,” or how we’re doing with education (13th), or “best roads.”
No, Connecticut has the dubious distinction of being number one in nasty. According to the study released this week by Kantar Media/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project, Connecticut’s gubernatorial race is the King of Mean.
Connecticut’s race doesn’t just have the lowest percentage of positive ads, at a mere 15 percent, it has also has the greatest share of purely negative ads, at 69.6 percent.
We’re number one, yet I’m so not proud.
Connecticut is also 13th out of the 15th most expensive gubernatorial races this cycle, with $15.2 million spent through Oct. 23. If you break that down by our 3.596 million 2013 census population, that’s $4.22 per person spent on mudslinging.
Since last week, two outside groups (Independence USA PAC and the NRA Political Victory Fund) filed plans to drop even more money into the race, bringing the outside spending total to $16.4 million, or $4.56 for each man, woman, and child living in the state.
I would rather they’d given me a pint of Ben & Jerry’s (Caramel Salted Core, please) to eat on Election Night, while I’m stamping dollar bills with “Not to Be Used for Bribing Politicians.”
What has all this nastiness bought, besides making me want to turn off the television, dump the mail straight into the recycling bin, and — even as a committed political junkie — feel like I’m going to have to drag myself kicking and screaming to the polls on Tuesday? Nothing. Nada. Diddly Squat. According to the latest Quinnipiac Poll released on Wednesday, Malloy and Foley — and us, the unfortunate voters — are back to where we were in November 2010.
Except in that nationwide, trust in our political institutions and the political process is worse.
According to the Harvard Institute of Politics, which has been tracking trust in institutions and the political process among 18-29 years olds, we have seen a “consistent and across-the-board drop in trust levels for some time,” along with a “similar pattern on issues in relation to the efficacy of the political process more generally.”
For example, since 2010, there has been a consistent six-point increase in those who agree with the statement that “elected officials seem to be motivated by selfish reasons,” more than three-in-five (62 percent) now agree with this; and a similar six-point increase with agreement that “political involvement rarely has any tangible results” (23 percent in 2010, 29 percent in 2014). We also have tracked a seven-point increase in the number who agree with the statement, “elected officials don’t seem to have the same priorities I have,” (51 percent in 2010, 58 percent in 2014).
It’s hard for a critically-thinking, ethically-inclined, voter who is not a member of the 1 percent wealthiest to not feel this way.
A piece in Wednesday’s New York Times reported that “attorneys general are now the object of aggressive pursuit by lobbyists and lawyers who use campaign contributions, personal appeals at lavish corporate-sponsored conferences, and other means to push them to drop investigations, change policies, negotiate favorable settlements or pressure federal regulators. The New York Times reports that both the Republican and Democratic Associations of Attorneys General have been raking in the bucks. Our own AG, George Jepsen, was one of several co-chairs of the Fall Policy Forum for the DAGA in Philadelphia. The forum had special “Roundtable” events for especially generous donors.
Heather Gerken, the J. Skelley Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School, in a lecture entitled The Real Problem with Citizens United: Campaign Finance, Dark Money and Shadow Parties warned that SuperPACs and 501c4 organizations might eventually become “shadow parties” as the political elites adapt to the new regulatory environment post-Citizens United.
“Despite the formal prohibitions on coordination, the independent SuperPACs and 501c4s are intimately interconnected with the real parties. These organizations have started to look like shadow parties — they are outside of the formal structure, but they have begun to house the party leadership,” Gerken wrote.
Gerken is concerned that a dual power structure will emerge, with power shifting to elite donors in these de facto shadow parties, which will “reduce the party faithful’s most important form of influence, the influence that they exercise by virtue of being part of the same organization.” If the elites are no longer rubbing shoulders with the rank-and-file who work for campaigns, listening to and recognizing their concerns, where do ordinary voters find their voice in the political system? We already see a growing number of young people disillusioned with the process.
Meanwhile, as if a voter needed any more things to be depressed about, thus far only about 10 percent of 360 candidates have taken the FOI pledge after they were sent letters by the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information asking them to oppose any attempt to weaken the state’s public document disclosure law and to require public hearings for any attempts to change the law.
Notably, third-party gubernatorial candidate Joe Visconti has signed it, while neither of the two major party candidates has done so — although Malloy’s campaign told CTNewsJunkie that he plans to sign the pledge. However, the performance of his administration in office hasn’t been altogether stellar in that regard, as anyone who has tried to get information from the state Department of Education well knows. So even if he signs it, he’s made it pretty clear that while he might talk the transparency talk, he doesn’t walk the transparency walk.
As someone who has always believed in our system of democracy, I have never felt more disillusioned and depressed about an election, or like my vote is less likely to bring about meaningful change. It feels too much like the old saying, “Meet the new boss . . . same as the old boss.”
Nonetheless, vote I will, because it’s a privilege and a responsibility.
Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. A former securities analyst, she’s now an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU, and enjoys helping young people discover the power of finding their voice as an instructor at the Writopia Lab.
DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.